The First Husband by Laura Dave thoroughly and somewhat humorously explores factors of choosing a partner, the longevity of relationships and how the quirks of upbringing and personality can sustain or doom romance. Annie Adams has settled into a life that she expects to enjoy. She has a satisfying career as a travel journalist, a lovable dog and a stable relationship with a man whom she adores. Her doomed luck with the movie Roman Holiday, brings it crashing to an end. After watching it, her boyfriend Nick tells her his “futures counselor” has recommended they take a break. Nick proceeds to take up with a woman from his past.
I have heard of Laura Dave for years, especially about her novel London is the Best City in America (which I think I purchased at some point, and might still have) so I was excited to read The First Husband. Dave writes in a wonderfully engaging and intelligent style. I enjoyed her on target observations on relationships and human behavior via protagonist Annie Adams. The examination of Annie’s journey in the aftermath of the loss of her relationship as she tries to take a friend’s advice to be “the opposite of herself”, yield surprising revelations. The irony of life puts the shoe on the other foot. The “opposite self” finds Annie married, living in the back of beyond in Massachusetts, and thinking about her choices in navigating the thorny issues that pop up in her new and improved life (a troubled brother-in-law, instant nephews, alluring ex-girlfriends and a decidedly cool mother-in-law).
The “first” husband of the title proved somewhat problematic for me because I didn’t completely get a sense of the instant love that he felt for Annie (or that she loved him beyond a rebound for that matter). He was a little one note for me in comparison to his colorful and troubled brother. However, I truly wanted to see the Annie would choose for herself when given the opportunity, because (of course!) Nick does come to his senses and come back for her. The intricacies and contradictions in Annie’s character and her search to discover her own happiness made this the charming and thoughtful novel. It’s one that I enjoyed reading. Recommended.